March 28, 1996
The charge to the International Programs Committee was "to review and monitor issues related to the international programs and other international activities of the University. The International Programs Committee shall advise and make policy recommendations in such areas as services for international students and scholars, foreign fellowships and studies abroad, faculty, staff and student exchange programs and cooperative undertakings with foreign universities".
The committee's active membership was composed of seven standing faculty members (including the chair), two members of the administrative staff and four students, two undergraduates and two graduate students. The director of international programs was an ex-officio member. The committee met in full session six times, approximately once a month at which time it received reports from two subcommittees who were charged with discrete responsibilities. The recommendations which follow in this report are from the full committee.
Subcommittee for the Foundation for International Exchange
Subcommittee on the Foundation for International Exchange continues work begun in AY 1993-94. The rationale for establishment of the subcommittee on the Foundation for International Exchange can be found in the committee report of AY 1993-94 (see Almanac, April 7, 1994). It advised that while schools and/or departments may have their own means to encourage international collaborations, there did not exist a centralized unit with this designation to which a standing Penn faculty from any schools could apply for financial support to bring foreign faculty to Penn for short periods of time to further international collaboration. The 1994-95 subcommittee further investigated the extent of the perceived need for such a new entity within this University. the guiding principle continued to be that "the establishment of this foundations would further the international mission of the University by 1) raising the awareness o the international scholarly community to the presence and international dedication of the University of Pennsylvania, and by 12) promoting the internationalization process of the University by creating opportunities for on-site visits by international faculty. Visits may be from scholars of established international reputation and/or grass roots entry level professors whose collaboration would enhance the work of standing faculty at all professional levels" ( Almanac, April 7, 1994). The intention of the proposal was not bilateral exchange, but rather to bring scholars from other countries to Penn.
The subcommittee of AY 1995-96 endorsed the proposed structure of the Foundation for International Exchange (FIE) as similar to the University Research Foundation, administered at the university level rather than by departments or schools remained unchanged as did the process of application, and the selection process. (See Almanac 1993-94 report which details the four (4) page proposal quite similar to the Type A Research Foundation proposal). Proposals would be reviewed in early fall for stipends beginning the following academic year.
In AY 1994-95 the committee investigated whether support for this initiative existed. Eleven of twelve schools responded to a short questionnaire asking for 1) information as to the existence of similar initiatives within their school, and 2) interest in and/or willingness to support this proposal in principle and/or financially (See 1994-95 report). In summary, this preliminary type of data revealed general support for the foundation with little commitment to financial participation. Nevertheless, since the findings did disclose support in principle for such a foundation, the full committee charged the subcommittee to obtain information from other Ivy League schools as to 1) the nature and structure of opportunities for their faculty to collaborate with international colleagues, and 2) the location as well as the operation of offices which do exist in their colleges and universities.
Letters were sent and telephone calls were made to appropriate persons at Ivy League schools and other comparable institutions. About 60% of institutions contacted replied. They each had programs for funding foreign scholars but none had a designated central international exchange funding program/office. The full committee recognized that if such a program could be established at Penn, it would represent a "trailblazing" medium for informal, bureaucratically uncomplicated exchange. The chair and selected members of the subcommittee were asked to advise with the Provost. Committee members recognized that in view of legislative budget cuts and other financial surprises AY 1995-96 has brought, alternatives (if less desirable) paths need to be explored. It is conceivable, for example, that this initiative might find a home within already existing structures, e.g., as a priority category in request for funds from the Research Foundation. The charge to next year's committee is to continue to pursue next steps for a central home for the FIE as well as alternative avenues. Efforts to reach the Provost have been made. The charge to the committee of AY 1996-97 is to come to a final resolution on the model and the initiative.
Subcommittee on Improvement of International Student Life
Subcommittee on Improving International Student Life continued work commenced in AY 1994-95. They considered strategies to encourage additional programs aimed at enhancing the quality of life for international students. The survey administered to international students in AY 1994 -95 revealed two key difficulties for many international students: 1) isolation, and 2) lack of adequate support for academic endeavors, given the different backgrounds and academic preparations. Three recommendations were made at year's end: 1) establishment of a Language/Country Data Bank; 2) academic writing course for non-native English speaking graduate students; and 3) peer mentors for international students, piloted with global immersion students or students who have completed study abroad programs ( Almanac, Sept. 26, 1995).
In this AY, the Subcommittee on Improvement of International Student Life pursued further two of the initiatives begun last year: 1) establishment of a credit bearing writing course for international graduate students; and 2) establishment of a databank with information on native countries of residence for all Penn faculty, staff and students as well as languages with which they are fluent.
Initiative 1, establishment of a credit bearing writing course for international graduate students. Discussions are underway with Dean Walter Licht who has expressed interest. The charge to this subcommittee for AY 1996-97 includes continuing these discussions and/or pursuing alternative directions.
Initiative 2, establishment of a language/country databank. Consultations have been carried on with various computer experts at Penn and with administrators with computer related responsibilities at Penn. The Director of SEAS Computing, who is also a member of the University Committee on Computing, advised that a current database is available through the World Wide Web. However, there are some logistical, compatibility, and legal issues of privacy which need to be addressed if this avenue is chosen. The Data Administrator for DCCS has also been consulted and has proffered helpful perspectives. The issues raised are not considered to be overly problematic since the proposal asks that the database be accessible only to the Penn community, that suppliance of information be voluntary. New fields for incoming students and staff could be introduced rather simply into the existing "whois" database at Penn. A major concern of the committee at present is that while the response has been generally enthusiastic, at this point no agency has volunteered to undertake this project. In addition a means for including members of the community not yet electronically linked to the University need to be established. This Subcommittee too is charged to complete its inquiries in AY 1996-97.
In sum, the full committee had anticipated making final recommendations on the initiatives worked on by the two subcommittees in this academic year. This goal was not achieved primarily because of complicating pragmatic problems, essentially economic, faced by interested offices and agencies. Thus, the full committee spent more than expected time trouble shooting reports of the subcommittees and advancing alternative resources and/or arenas to pursue. While these efforts proved quite fruitful and allowed the initiatives to move forth, the work is not yet completed. Hence, the first of two charges to the committee of forthcoming AY 1996-97 is to bring closure to the above initiatives and make specific recommendations. The second charge to next year's committee is to spend major efforts on student originated concerns. An undergraduate student member of this committee has accepted the responsibility to survey fellow international students for a list of concerns the committee might address in its first meeting.
Inasmuch as the Provost has reinvigorated the Provost Advisory Council on International Programs, the committee recommends that the Chair of the University Council Committee on International Programs be invited to serve as a member or an ex-officio member. This liaison appointment might well serve to integrate, and/or inform, of the concerns, interests, and the responsibility areas of each/both groups.
--Vivian C. Seltzer, Chair
Volume 43 Number 14
December 3, 1996
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